How Long Does It Take to Get a Book Published?

Writing a book is one thing, but how long does it take to get a book published? What variables come into play? Are there things a writer can do to speed up the process? We dive into these questions and more.
Author:
Publish date:

Some of the simplest questions in publishing have some of the most complicated answers. And "how long does it take to get a book published" is about as simple as a question can get.

(When should writers negotiate better terms?)

The range of possible answers is nearly infinite. In the past, I've literally published a book (well, chapbook) the same day as the manuscript was ready to go. That's super fast! I've also had books and ebooks go from idea to publication in less than a month. Again, super fast!

On the other hand, some books are published more than two years after the ink dries on the book contract. Most books fall somewhere in between those timelines.

So let's look at how long it takes for a book to get published as well as what the conditions are for each situation.

*****

Breaking In Debut Novelist Virtual Conference

Spend the weekend of June 26-28 hearing from debut authors who recently broke into the industry and are finally published. They'll share their stories and give you advice and insights into what's working for debut authors right now. In addition to the instruction, attendees can submit a query for critique by a literary agent. Experience the education, camaraderie, and opportunities provided by a live writing conference without ever having to leave your home!

Click to continue.

*****

How Long Does It Take to Get a Book Published?

Before I get into a more definitive answer to this question, let's set some ground rules. For beginners, we're going to say this book is getting traditionally published. As I shared above, self-publishing makes time to market exceptionally fast.

Second rule: We'll say that the manuscript is complete, because the act of completing a manuscript can significantly alter the publication time, especially if several revisions are necessary. So let's say the manuscript is relatively ready to go (knowing that even the most polished of manuscripts may require a round or two of edits).

(When should writers edit their writing?)

Third and final rule: Let's agree that a contract is on the table. This cuts out the highly variable time required to find an agent and/or land a book deal in the first place. I mean, some writers get lucky on their first shot; others take much longer to get that first offer.

how_long_does_it_take_to_get_a_book_published_robert_lee_brewer

Okay, So How Long Does It Take?

With our rules established above, the typical time it takes for a writer to go from book contract to publication is usually somewhere in the nine months to two years area. Many factors come into play for this range of outcomes, including the size of the press and how far out they plan their production schedule.

Of course, a proposed publication date should be mentioned in the book contract, though it can change (one direction or another) based on a variety of unexpected situations that arise. For instance, the situation with COVID-19 has caused some books to move their publication dates back.

I've also known situations where a publication date is moved to an earlier date for a variety of reasons: Filling a slot that opened in the production schedule, capitalizing on a trend, or even a company looking to move profit into an earlier quarter. For these reasons, it's a good idea to turn things around as early as you're able. It just gives you more options for when the unexpected opportunities occur.

Why Does Publishing Take So Long?

The time it takes to publish a book involves several factors, and only one of them is the amount of time it takes to edit, proofread, and possibly fact check the manuscript. There's also time built in for designing the interior and exterior of the book. Time built in for shipping the manuscript to and fro. 

Book reviewers and author interviewers need time with advanced review copies (or ARCs) of the book. Booksellers need time to evaluate promotional material and decide whether or not to stock the book in their stores. Writers who may or may not endorse your book need time to write their blurbs.

(Why do authors cross out name when signing book?)

And smart editors build time in their production schedules for multiple things to go wrong. 

A Final Word on Publishing Time

After spending so much time writing the book and submitting the manuscript, it's only natural that writers might get impatient with the publishing process. But remember: All the time baked into the production schedule is meant to give you and your book the best chance to have a successful book launch. And that's all time well spent.

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Chasing Trends

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Chasing Trends

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so this series helps identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is chasing trends in writing and publishing.

Lessons Learned From Self-Publishing My Picture Book

Lessons Learned From Self-Publishing My Picture Book

Author Dawn Secord shares her journey toward self-publishing a picture book featuring her Irish Setter named Bling.

Poetic Forms

Crown of Sonnets: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the crown of sonnets, a form that brings together seven sonnets in a special way.

25 Ways Reflective Writing Can Help You Grow as a Writer (and as a Person)

25 Ways Reflective Writing Can Help You Grow as a Writer (And as a Person)

Reflective writing—or journaling—is a helpful practice in helping understand ourselves, and by extensions, the stories we intend to write. Author Jeanne Baker Guy offers 25 ways reflective writing can help you grow as a writer (and as a person).

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Being Followed

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Being Followed

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let your character know they're being followed.

Amanda Jayatissa: On Spiraling Out in Suspense

Amanda Jayatissa: On Spiraling Out in Suspense

Author Amanda Jayatissa discusses the fun of writing "deliciously mean" characters in her psychological thriller, My Sweet Girl.

3 Tips for Writing a Memoir Everyone Wants to Read

3 Tips for Writing a Memoir Everyone Wants to Read

A memoir is an open window into another's life—and although the truth is of paramount importance, so too is grabbing hold of its reader. Writer Tasha Keeble offers 3 tips for writing a memoir everyone will want to read.

Zoe Whittall: On Personal Change in Literary Fiction

Zoe Whittall: On Personal Change in Literary Fiction

Bestselling and Giller Prize-shortlisted author Zoe Whittal discusses the complexity of big life decisions in her new novel, The Spectacular.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 582

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a transition poem.